07/18/13 — Grantham School design options on meeting agenda

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Grantham School design options on meeting agenda

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 18, 2013 1:46 PM

Possible designs for a new Grantham School as well as for several other school facilities included in the county's $258 million capital improvement plan will be presented when Wayne County commissioners and the Board of Education meet in joint session on July 30.

James Hite of Hite Associates, a Greenville-based architecture/engineering/technology company, will make a concept/feasibility presentation on new Grantham middle and elementary schools, and for projects at Charles B. Aycock High School, Spring Creek Elementary School and central attendance area schools.

The meeting, to be held at the Lane Tree Conference Center, 2317 Salem Church Road, will be facilitated by an official from the UNC School of Government.

Light refreshments will be served at 8:30 a.m. and the meeting, which is open to the public, will start at 9 a.m.

The joint session had been sought by the school board to discuss school facilities after Commission Chairman Steve Keen recently called the Board of Education "slack" in getting a facilities plan to the commission.

Keen and several other commissioners have visited Riverwood School in Johnston County, which could serve as a model for Grantham. That school was designed by Hite, who presented the Grantham School plans to commissioners earlier this month.

Keen and Hite also have visited the county-owned site on U.S. 13 South where the school would be built.

Commissioners prefer a K-8 school over the school board's proposal to build a new grades 5-8 middle school on the site and to leave K-4 students on the old campus. During the June 18 public hearing on the county budget, residents from the Grantham community spoke in favor of the school board's plans.

During the public comments portion of the board's Tuesday meeting, Jerry Grantham of the Grantham community said that while some of the buildings were older than he was, that others were "more than adequate" to serve the needs of children in kindergarten through fourth grade.

"Also, with the planned removal of the oldest building, there will be plenty of room for additional needs far into the future," he said. "It seems like it would be wasteful to abandon good buildings and then construct new ones less than a mile away."

Having two separate schools would eliminate any conflict over the use of recreational areas, both indoor and outside, as well, he said.

"Building one campus instead of two would also free up money that could be used in other parts of the county," he said. "Finally, let's talk about something that we rather not even think about -- children can be very cruel to each other.

"We can eliminate a lot of potential problems by simply by keeping them separate. No doubt there are other ideas to consider in this matter, but I would hope you would keep these things in mind when you make your final decision."

Commissioners have said that if the old school is not safe or healthy for middle school students, then it isn't for elementary students either.

It is also a matter of money, building a new school without closing the old one would add to the annual operational costs, commissioners said. However, Hite's plan has the roughly 48-acre site being shared by middle and elementary school separated by a large common parking lot.

That concept addresses concerns about elementary school students sharing a school with older middle school children, commissioners have said.

The new site is located between U.S. 13 and Loop Road just east of the existing school. The front of the schools would face the interior of the site.

The plan calls for two new roads. One would connect U.S. 13 and Loop Road to provide access to both schools. A second road would connect to Loop Road and would provide bus access only to the campus. Each school would have its own bus parking lot.

The 94,850-square-foot elementary school would cost about $12.3 million and have a capacity of 750 students. It could be expanded to accommodate up to 1,000 students.

The middle school would be slightly smaller at 93,400 square feet and cost about $12.6 million. It would have a capacity of 410 students and could be doubled in size to accommodate 820 students, Hite said.

Site work would cost approximately $3 million for a total cost of roughly $28 million. Commissioners have asked the school system to help pay for the project by cutting its central office administrative costs by $500,000 annually.

Each school would have a central administrative/media building facing each other.

The elementary school would have four wings. Three would each house two grades, K-1, 2-3 and 4-5. The fourth would have an area for music and art, an indoor play area and cafeteria.

The middle school would have wings for grades 6, 7 and 8. It would have its own cafeteria and a gym that would also provide space for art and music.

A football/soccer field and baseball and softball fields would be built as well.